Utilizing a plethora of genres to create their sound, Zeph & Azeem create a unique piece of work with Rise Up. With Zeph providing the production’s punch and Azeem flexing his lyrical prowess on the mic, Rise Up is yet another venture when one producer and one emcee pull off a cohesive project. The question remains whether this duo can provide anything new and interesting to the stale hip hop scene.
The answer is between yes and no. Zeph provides a proficient punch behind the boards but Azeem doesn’t bring it enough lyrically to hold his weight. This could be forgiven most of the time, but the album borders a brutal inconsistency when Azeem’s mundane flow doesn’t pack the punch to compliment Zeph’s colorful production.
Zeph definitely is the strong point on Rise Up. The sultry vocals of Joyo Velarde on “Time To Wake Up” are beautifully captured around this smooth reggae tinged offering. “Play The Drum” is a helluva musical treat with Zeph delivering a nursery rhyme like sample very similar to how the 45 King brought Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life to fruition. He plucks his samples from every genre of music alive. Whether it be Latin (“That Type Of Music” and “Ay Mami”), Reggae (“Ten Steps Ahead”), or just straight up Hip Hop (“Rise Up”), Zeph stays relatively creative and gives something a bit different than what your average hip hop offering tends to sell these days.
Azeem is no bum on the mic and tends to work some lyrical magic on quite a few of the album’s high points. On “Everything’s Different”, he flips through the high octane production with a multisyllable flow. His wordplay is intact on the spoken word demonstration “Alpha Zeta” and he does his thing on “Play The Drum”. His voice may sound a bit boring but if you really pay attention, dude is no slouch with a pen and a pad.
Rise Up is a welcome departure from the BS that plagues Hip Hop today. Although it doesn’t maximize its potential, it does give the listener a totally different perspective. Whether or not these two sustain this with another LP is to be seen but until then we can suffice with this offering.
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